Throughout the last year, Business and Professional Women’s (BPW) Foundation has been connecting women to the emerging green economy by providing access to green job training and resources. Our goal is to help women of all ages better understand and identify the sustainable jobs of the future, and to align their skills with those particular jobs. After nearly a century focused on improving women’s access to opportunities in non-traditional occupations, BPW Foundation wants to ensure that women are ready to participate in and contribute to the growing green economy.
Historically, women have been under-represented in the dominant (and high-paying) green sector job fields. According to the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), women only represent 1.7 percent of electricians, 5.5 percent of first-line supervisors/managers of mechanics, installers, and repairers, 5.9 percent of mechanical engineers, and 9 percent of computer and engineering fields. Instead, women most often choose the following five (significantly lower-paying) occupations: secretaries and administrative assistants, registered nurses, elementary and middle school teachers, cashiers, and nursing, psychiatric and home health aides. Clearly, women are getting left behind at this intersection.
An important first step in securing green jobs for women has been to raise their awareness that the higher-paying jobs offered by the green economy are within reach of women of all ages, backgrounds, and experience levels. The green sector encompasses a wide variety of employment fields and industries, and gateway opportunities exist for women with a broad range of education, exposure, and experience.
There are an increasing number of training opportunities for those interested in pursuing green careers. Through a grant from Walmart Foundation, BPW Foundation recently supported four community-based pilot programs to determine demand and expand specific training and services for women aligned with local green jobs. BPW Foundation is also partnering with AARP Foundation to expand access and opportunities for mature women to find training, jobs and advance their careers in the green economy.
Educating women about the range of green jobs and training available for green occupations brings us one step closer to ensuring that women have the chance to compete for and succeed in the green economy. Training and certification can be found at many levels, from high school to and through graduate school. Green training can also be acquired on-the-job—unions and nonprofit organizations, as well as industry associations often sponsor apprenticeships and other programs. Finally, several training programs are currently funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and are in development by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Women’s Bureau.
Through our work and research, BPW Foundation understands that despite the many avenues for education and training, if there are no jobs, these skills offer no benefit. Fortunately, however, that looks like it is about to change for the better! While overall the economy vacillates between recovery and recession, there are major indications that the green economy is growing.
According to a new MoneyTree Report released by Price Waterhouse Coopers (PWC), first quarter 2011 investments in the Clean Technology sector jumped 26% above the fourth quarter of 2010. The Clean Technology sector, as defined by PWC, crosses traditional industries and comprises alternative energy, pollution, recycling, power supplies, and conservation. The impressive $1.0 billion invested in Clean Technology places that sector second only to the Software Industry in terms of dollar investment. This month’s employment figures offer further support, even as the nation’s unemployment level rose slightly to 9 percent, there were gains in corresponding Clean Technology industry sectors.
So with the green economy solidly “in the black,” women of all ages need to be poised and ready to “go for it” and capitalize on the opportunities presented by this growing sector. BPW Foundation can show you the way. Visit www.bpwfoundation.org/GreenForWomen to learn about successfully navigating a green career pathway. Go for it!